The Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing quarantine have caught society off guard on nearly every level. Almost nowhere is this more pronounced than in the workforce. Few organizations had a strong plan for shifting their entire staff to remote work overnight. Even fewer likely planned to be months into this experiment with no end in sight.
As organizations strive to maintain quality and productivity under unprecedented circumstances, they also struggle with maintaining employee engagement and commitment. Key to this will be effective leadership and management. But what does that look like in a remote working world? While broadly similar, certain management skills become even more vital for remote teams as compared to teams in an on-site environment.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to help remote managers keep their teams engaged and productive:
Key to day-to-day success is setting up a structured workflow that team members can anticipate and orient themselves around. It’s essential to make this a priority. Arrange more time for routine team check-ins and regular individual check-ups. It also involves setting expectations early and clearly so there is accountability across the team. This will help keep employees engaged in a shared routine and set of processes, making it easier to collaborate and work as a team.
While seemingly at odds with the first point, the goal of creating structure is to create a system that team members can rely on and plan around. Many team members are dealing with a host of challenges outside of work. Managers should be able to develop a schedule that enables team members to be productive while allowing for flexibility based on employees’ specific needs. This will go a long way to engendering goodwill and loyalty from team members while still maintaining productivity.
Tools for Success
Remote work relies on the smooth, uninterrupted application of technology to perform the same tasks as on-site work. Teams will not only require their standard office software, but will need to rely on video conferencing, shared drives, and other remote tools to collaborate effectively. Managers need to place a stronger focus on providing the tools needed for teams to work together and prompt support for any issues.
One Size Fits All
With so many variables associated with remote work, it may be harder to track and measure employee productivity. It can be tempting for managers to micromanage how tasks are carried out. Instead of looking for innovative ways to incentivize their employees and plan for flexibility, they create rigid processes. This not only makes their job harder, but can also affect and hurt morale and employee engagement. Rather than focus on one-size-fits-all practices, managers should concentrate on outcomes and express trust in their teams.
Lose Focus on Culture
Beyond hitting targets and being productive, employee engagement is driven by a shared sense of culture and camaraderie. Employees thrive on bonding experiences like those formed over water coolers and overtime pizzas. It is important for managers to look for novel ways to transfer this sense of togetherness to the remote work environment. This will go a long way to maintaining employee commitment and productivity over time. Managers need to create and build in opportunities for social interactions and team building. Some could be scheduled, like a virtual happy hour, while others could be more informal, like sharing photos and jokes in group chats.
Focusing Only on the Day-to-Day
The transition to a remote work environment often disrupts much of the workflow. As a result, a trouble-free fallback for managers is to focus on developing day-to-day processes. Unfortunately, this can distract from the bigger picture – the need to plan and make progress on more significant organizational and team goals.
Managers need to direct tasks and meeting agendas to keep making progress on the larger organizational vision. At the same time, team members will still want and/or need coaching and development opportunities. When focusing on larger goals, it is critical that managers should also include setting goals and providing feedback to team members.
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